Not too long ago, I rented a movie called I Don’t Know How She Does It, starring Sarah Jessica Parker. I adore the film and of course saw a lot of myself in the main character and other characters as well. Any woman with a family and personal ambition will be able to see a bit of herself in that movie.
Before I had my son, I had planned out our soon-to-be life in a 20 page Powerpoint presentation. Yes, I really did. Of course, it’s four years later and I’m not quite making the money I had envisioned, or volunteering as often as I wanted to, or taking the family vacations I committed to taking. But at least I had a plan. And one day, we will get back on the plan.
Most of us who are fully committed to our careers are pretty good at that part of our lives. It’s the rest that falls apart. Remember the line from The Devil Wears Prada movie? It’s when XX says to Andrea, “Let me know when your whole life falls apart. Then you’ll know it’s time for a promotion.”
When that happens, it’s okay. Just pick up the pieces and make something new with them. Sure, we can manage to keep some things from blowing up and sure, we should definitely value our families over our careers. But we already know that, and we already do. The big issue is that far too many of us focus on the outcome and forget the journey.
What I liked most about the storyline in I Don’t Know How She Does It is that whether or not everything turns out right is totally irrelevant.
The magic in balancing life and work is in the day-to-day.
- It’s when you can manage to take 20 minutes to tickle-wrestle with your 4 year old even though you have a pounding headache.
- It’s when you find the energy to muster up some affection and attention for your significant other who’s been missing you lately.
- It’s when you manage to do the above even though you’d rather watch that show you recorded with DVR.
- It’s when you finally dress your desk with a few pictures of your friends and family, to remind yourself that you can have your cake and eat it, too. That it’s not all or nothing.
It used to be that all or nothing was the reality, at least as is portrayed by Hollywood. You either had to be all in – as in, seriously the devil in The Devil Wears Prada, forsaking everything including personal happiness for success – or you had to give it all up and regret not climbing the ladder when you had the chance.
In one of the final scenes of I Don’t Know How She Does It, the main character gives her boss an ultimatum, telling him to fire her if he doesn’t like the fact that she refuses to go out of town because she promised her daughter she would play in the snow with her. Her boss lets it go – this time. I don’t know or care how realistic that scene really is. The bigger deal is that the main character vowed never to quit – she was okay with being fired for wanting both family and career – but she vowed never to quit because she believed she could have it all.
Maybe we can.